A 22-year-old Ohio man pleaded guilty Monday to firearms and terrorism charges after a 2015 plot to attack the U.S. Capitol ended when FBI agents sprung a trap set at a local gun store.
Christopher Lee Cornell, 22, of Green Township, Ohio, went by the alias of Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, and was taken into custody by members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force last year after he purchased two Armalite M-15 5.56mm semi auto rifles, some magazines and 600 rounds of ammunition as the last step in his plan.
Cornell pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to kill government employees, one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization before Senior U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith of the Southern District of Ohio on Aug. 1.
According to court documents, beginning in the summer of 2014 and continuing through until his arrest, Cornell used social media accounts under the Ubaydah alias and posted numerous statements and videos voicing support for foreign terrorist organizations to include ISIL/ISIS.
Further, he voiced support for waging violent jihad and made contact with what he believed to be a like-minded individual who later turned out to be an FBI informant. He advised the informant that he had been in contact with ISIL directly but had not been cleared by the group to conduct an attack. Nevertheless, he elected to pursue a lone wolf strategy.
“I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything,” Cornell told the informant as related in the Department of Justice complaint. “I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves.
Cornell did meet face to face with the informant in October 2014 then again in November and further discussed waging jihad. By December, the plan had been formulated to travel to Washington D.C. and attack the U.S. Capitol building with pipe bombs and firearms. After researching how to construct the improvised explosives, the final step before the attack was to acquire the guns.
FBI counter-terrorism agents then set up a sting at an area gun store, Point Blank Range and Gun Shop, and enlisted store personnel to assist them. Then, on Jan. 14, 2015, Cornell came to the shop and purchased his firearms. The suspected terrorist, who had a clean record, passed a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) inquiry, and buying the firearms with money he had saved, left the store and was taken into custody in the parking lot.
As such, the case stands as a rebuff to claims that linking the no fly list to the NICS database is needed to bar potential terrorists from obtaining firearms and explosives as agents specifically used the fact that Cornell was not a prohibited possessor to allow him to proceed with the sale and affect his arrest.
Combined, his three charges carry a potential maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
According to court documents, Cornell’s sentencing hearing is set for Oct.31.